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15+ STEM Lessons and Activities to Teach Chemical Reactions

Use these free STEM lesson plans and activities to teach and explore chemical reactions with K-12 students.

Three experiment images to respresent a collection of chemical reaction activities, slime, invisible ink, and glasses of foaming solution

The best way to teach chemical reactions is to show them in action or, when possible, let students get hands-on with exploring the reactions. If you are planning to teach a unit on chemical reactions, you might find just what you need in one the 15+ free STEM lessons and activities listed below.

Lesson Plans to Explore Chemical Reactions

Lesson Plans contain materials to support educators leading hands-on STEM learning with students. Lesson Plans offer NGSS alignment, contain background materials to inspire confidence in teachers even in areas that may be new to them, and include supplemental resources like worksheets, videos, discussion questions, and assessment materials. (In some cases, we have both an activity and a lesson plan available on a similar topic. Lesson Plans offer additional support for educators, but we've noted activity versions, too.)

  1. 1. Design Slime (Grades 3-5)

    In the Slime Shop: Engineer Your Own Slime lesson, students use the engineering design process to design their own slime. (Activity version also available.)

    How to Make Slime
  2. 2. Pineapple + Milk Curdles (Grade 5)

    In the What Do Enzymes in Pineapple Juice Do to Milk? lesson, students learn about enzymes as they combine pineapple and milk and observe what happens and why. (Activity version also available.)

    What Do Enzymes in Pineapple Juice Do to Milk?
  3. 3. Cold Pack Chemistry (Grades 6-8)

    In the Cold Pack Chemistry: Exploring Endothermic and Exothermic Reactions lesson, students investigate endothermic and exothermic reactions and choose the best chemical reaction for designing their own cold pack.

    Cold-pack product next to a beaker with a solution and a thermometer
  4. 4. Milk Plastic (Grades 6-8)

    In the Turn Milk into Plastic! lesson, students use the chemical reaction between milk and vinegar to create casein milk plastic and learn about polymerization. (Activity version also available.)

    Turn Milk Into Plastic!
  5. 5. Catalase, Substrate, and Reaction Rate (Grades 9-12)

    In the Control the Reaction Rate of a Foaming Reaction lesson, students explore the role of the substrate in controlling the rate of a reaction.

    Change the Reaction Rate of a Foaming Reaction
  6. 6. Reaction Rates & Temperature (Grades 9-12)

    In the Reaction Rates: Speed It Up with Temperature! lesson, students investigate a color-changing reaction between food coloring and bleach. How does temperature affect the rate of the reaction?

    Setup for an activity to explore affect of temperature on rate of a color-changing chemical reaction
  7. 7. Reaction Rates & Surface Area (Grades 9-12)

    In the Reaction Rates: When Surface Area Matters! lesson, students use Alka-Seltzer® tablets crushed into different sizes to investigate the relationship between surface area and reaction rate.

    Materials for an activity exploring the relationship between surface area and reaction rate -- a stop watch, tablets crushed in different sizes, and water

Activities to Explore Chemical Reactions

  1. 1. Elephant Toothpaste

    There is no actual toothpaste involved, but the Elephant Toothpaste reaction creates a fun, high-impact foaming demonstration of the reaction created when hydrogen peroxide is mixed with yeast and dish soap. (Optional: students can use various colors of food dye to create their own unique displays.)

    How to Make Elephant Toothpaste
  2. 2. Chemical Reaction Lava Lamp

    In the Make an Alka-Seltzer Powered Lava Lamp activity, students can enjoy a groovy, bubbling lava lamp effect when they combine Alka-Seltzer®, mineral or vegetable oil, and water.

    Make Your Own Lava Lamp
  3. 3. Lemon Volcano

    In the Make a Lemon Volcano activity, students make their own fizzing volcanoes when they mix baking soda and lemon (citric acid) and see what the release of carbon dioxide (CO2) gas has to do with the volcano effect.

    Make a Lemon Volcano - Fun Science Experiment
  4. 4. Invisible Ink

    Have turmeric? In the Secret Messages With Invisible Ink! activity, students explore two different kinds of chemical reactions to see which works best for writing and decoding secret messages. (Tip! Get a firsthand look at how things went when this family did the activity at home.)

    Write Secret Messages With Invisible Ink!
  5. 5. Bath Bombs

    In the Making Homemade Bath Bombs activity, students explore different recipes and ingredients to see which will produce the fizziest bath bomb — and why. (A convenient Bath Bomb Kit is available for students doing science projects about this chemical reaction.)

    Bath bombs made as part of a science experiment
  6. 6. Exploring Enzymes

    In the Exploring Enzymes activity, students learn about enzymes in the body and find out how the catalase enzyme helps protect cells.

    Explore Enzyme Activity!
  7. 7. Fire Snake

    In the Make a Fire Snake activity, the combination of lighter fluid, sand, baking soda, and sugar triggers a chemical reaction in which an impressive fire snake seems to magically grow as it burns.

    Fire Snake Experiment
  8. 8. Cabbage Chemistry

    In the Color-changing Cabbage Chemistry activity, students use cabbage to make an indicator solution and then learn about acids and bases by testing various foods and liquids.

    Pot of red-purple cabbage to be cooked to create an indicator solution
  9. 9. Foamy Fake Snow

    In the Foaming Fake Snow activity, students make fake snow and explore chemical reactions and surfactants.

    Make Fake Snow - Craft Your Science Project

Explore More

Learn more about types of chemical reactions from our partners at ChemTalk.

Thematic Collections

Collections like this help educators find themed activities in a specific subject area or discover activities and lessons that meet a curriculum need. We hope these collections make it convenient for teachers to browse related lessons and activities. For other collections, see the Teaching Science Units and Thematic Collections lists. We encourage you to browse the complete STEM Activities for Kids and Lesson Plans areas, too. Filters are available to help you narrow your search.

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